Bobby-C’s Restaurant Survival Guide – Texas Roadhouse

As I am progressing through the restaurants for this guide, I am initially choosing those where I frequently eat. I started with Applebee’s, and continued with Ruby Tuesday. For this week’s installment I decided to check out Texas Roadhouse.

My family goes to this chain often. We enjoy the steaks, salads, and side dishes. The atmosphere is usually quite fun, and we always have a great time. It seemed a natural next place to do an analysis of, and to create a guide for Weight Watchers like me to help with making sound choices.

Imagine, then, my dismay when I could not find their nutrition guide on line. Instead I found this blurb:

Thank you for contacting us regarding our nutritional information. At this time, we offer calorie counts in the menu section of our website next to each menu item.

We can assure you that we are cognizant of the demand from guests such as yourself to provide more detailed nutritional information, but there are several factors that make this difficult.

Many of the large foodservice companies that offer specific nutritional information can do so because their food is pre-packaged and/or pre-portioned. Since we make our food from scratch — including the bacon bits, croutons, and dressings — it is next to impossible to provide exact nutritional information because of slight variations that depend upon whomever prepares the food.

We also make our bread from scratch each day and hand-cut our steaks, so again, we do not have the exact information printed, like some food service operators or what you may find in the grocery store.

We have attempted to provide some information in the past, but we pulled back after some guests complained we were not detailed enough. In addition, some enterprising folks tested the food, and when it fell outside the guidelines, they threatened legal action. As such, we stopped providing our special gluten-free menu, for example.

Sorry, but I think this is a cop out. Basically, they are saying “It’s too hard, but trust us, it’s all good.” I am sorry, but that just doesn’t cut it for me. While I can look up the points associated with various cuts of steak or pork, and try to estimate the values for their servings, I am left guessing when it comes to how things are prepared. What is in the broccoli? How is the rice prepared? What point values are there with the bread?

Their blurb makes it seem as though there could be great variability when dining in one Texas Roadhouse compared to another. But, my experience tells me that isn’t the case. I’ve eaten in 5 or 6 of their locations, and have found things like their side dishes, bread and appetizers to be remarkably similar. In fact, I would venture to guess that it is all identically the same from place to place.

Panera Bread (which I will analyze in a future post), bakes their bread fresh every day, at each location. Yet they are still able to provide detailed information on their food. Same for many other restaurants.

It really makes me wonder what they are hiding at Texas Roadhouse.

I tried the link they provided called “Recipes”, thinking I could glean their ingredient list. Nope.

On their menu they provide calories, but nothing else. With all the alleged variability in their cooking process, one is left to wonder what the value would be of these calorie counts.

So, where does this leave me? Since I started this journey toward better health, I have tried to become a more informed consumer of food. I realize that many, local restaurants don’t have the resources to provide detailed nutrition information for their menu, and I am willing to live with that limitation. But when it comes to a chain, like Texas Roadhouse, that excuse just doesn’t cut it for me.

I have decided that I am going to be avoiding Texas Roadhouse until they can get their act together to provide nutrition information that can help inform my choices while dining there. Perhaps you will want to do the same.

On their site it was hard to find a place to leave a comment, but I did find the email address for their Director of Public Relations. Here is the info:

Travis Doster
Director of Public Relations
6040 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, KY 40205
Phone:  502.426.9984
Fax:  502.515.7260

When this post is published, I am going to be sending a link, along with an email about my displeasure at their lack of information. Honestly, I have no expectations that it will matter, but I will be letting them know that I am making a conscious, healthy choice to dine elsewhere until they publish their nutrition information.

Beware the wolf in salad’s clothing – Analysis of Applebee’s Entre Salads

Last week I wrote a post about my encounter with a 35 Point Salad at a restaurant. The offending salad was the Grilled Oriental Chicken Salad at Applebee’s. That experience got me to thinking. How often are we fooled when we are out in a restaurant and order up a salad? How often are we allowing ourselves to be tricked into believing that we are making a healthy choice?

As a result of this experience I decided to start a series on my blog about restaurants, and how we can make healthy and informed choices when we are out. I am not intending to do an exhaustive analysis of every menu item, but I will hit on some highlights. For each restaurant I research I will focus first on the entree salads they offer, then give my thoughts on which are the best choices. I will also highlight other things on the menu that might sound like they are less healthy, but in actuality might be better alternatives.

Because of my recent experience, I am starting with Applebee’s. Today I went to the Applebee’s website and looked up the nutrition information for their entree salads. Here is what I found:

applebees saladsFor my analysis I looked at the calories, fat, carbs, fiber, protein, sodium and sugar. I then calculated the Weight Watchers Points Plus for each dish. The colors are my evaluation of how good or bad the choices are.

I looked at the sodium levels and compared them to what the Mayo Clinic recommends. According to the Mayo Clinic, an adult over 51 should not have more than 1,500mg of sodium in an entire day (for adults under 51 the number is 2,300mg). Those that are red represent more sodium than the recommended amount for my entire day. Those in yellow are dangerously close.

For sugar I looked at the World Health Organization that for an adult with a normal BMI (which mine is not), the limit should be about 25mg per day. Those that are red exceed that amount, those that are yellow are dangerously close.

The two salads that had the lowest Weight Watchers Points Plus are the Grilled Chicken Ceasar without dressing at 9 points, followed by the Thai Shrimp Salad from their Have it All menu, which came in at 10 points. However, when sugar and sodium are taken into account, the Thai Shrimp Salad fails miserably.

For a salad entree at Applebee’s, my best bet would have been the Grilled Chicken Ceasar without dressing.

I wanted to know what other healthy choices were on their menu, so here is a look a the information for their full Have it All menu

applebees have it all menu

As it turns out, all of the choices on this menu are high in sodium. No real surprise there, because they are lower fat and lower sugar, they make up the taste with salt. What is interesting is that the best choice on this menu, and likely on their entire menu, was The Pepper-Crusted Sirloin & Whole Grains. At 9 Weight Watchers Points it was the best choice I could have made. Oh, that’s right, it WAS THE CHOICE I MADE! But, they were out of it.

Just for fun, I looked up a dessert. Here is the line for the Triple Chocolate Meltdown

Applebees dessertFrom a calories, fat, sodium and Weight Watchers points perspective, I’d have been better off with the dessert.

So, what does this all mean? I think first it means that we have to be ever vigilant about what we eat. Just because something sounds healthy doesn’t mean that it is. We are naturally inclined to think in terms of salads being the best choice, but they are not always.

The other thing I learned is to trust my instincts. My first instinct was to order the Pepper-Crusted Sirloin & Whole Grains. When it wasn’t available, my best option would have been to get up and dine elsewhere, but the person I was with might not have gone for that idea. My next best option would have been the third thing I learned.

I have the Weight Watchers app on my phone, and I should have looked up my food before I ordered. I am always better off when I am prepared and have done my homework.

What do you think of this analysis? Is it helpful? I am thinking of doing one analysis like this each week for major chain restaurants. I am not looking to replace the “Eat this not That!” concept. Rather I am looking to give my thoughts on things as I go.

35 points for a salad?!? Are you #*&@ing kidding me?

Last night I had dinner with a friend. Our wives were playing BUNCO at my house so I needed to get away.

After some discussion we decided on Applebee’s. When we got there we found a pepper crusted sirloin that was only 350 calories. Sadly, they were out of it. I perused the menu and opted for the Oriental Chicken Salad.

I didn’t check the Weight Watchers  points for it before ordering. It’s a salad for crying out loud, how bad could it be?

THIRTY FIVE POINTS!!! That’s how bad.

Needless to say, I went over for the day. It’s one day and certainly not the end of the world, but it did serve as a reminder. Just because they call it a salad doesn’t make it healthy.

I will Remer to check the Weight Watchers app next time.